Nigeria: Lagos defies Covid-19, Organizes Popular All-Women Marathon Race
With strict observance of all health protocols, Lagos State Government organized what could be described as the first international sporting event after the Nigerian the government eased the nationwide lockdown to curtail the spread of the novel Coronavirus pandemic in the country.
After months-long Covid-19 hiatus, sporting activities were gradually returning to Nigeria and the Lagos State government defied all odds as it organized the 5th edition of Lagos Women Run on Saturday, November 21.
The past weeks saw the country witnessing considerably lower cases of reported infected people with Covid-19. Nigeria, as of Saturday, November 21, had 66, 228 affected cases with the recovery number standing at 61, 884 cases and 1, 166 deaths.
Athletes arranged in observance of Covid-19 prevention protocols at the starting line of Lagos Women Run
The organizing committee of the 10km all-women marathon race on the theme “Run anywhere, Everywhere”, headed by General Coordinator, Ms. Tayo Popoola surprised many critics who were wondering how a sporting event that would involve over 10,000 runners converging to take part in a competition would be successful in this period of the dreaded Coronavirus pandemic.
Popoola revealed that the new innovations added to this year's race. She stated that the introduction of the virtual version into the race that allowed people to run anywhere from their homes, their offices and from different environment was one of the strategies adopted to comply with Covid-19 protocols.
“All the athletes were given two disposable face masks at the start point which was at the Tafawa Balewa Square in the heart of Lagos Island. We also created cells of six athletes each on a single row, to create the much desired social distance before the race was flagged off,” Popoola said after the race, which was terminated inside the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Surulere, Saturday morning.
Popoola acknowledged the immense contributions of the Lagos State government towards the annual event, saying that holding the race at this period shows the commitment of the State government to sports development.
The keenly contested race was carried by a Plateau State elite athlete, Patience Dalyon. She finished the marathon within 33mins 43.73secs to win the Elite Open Category ahead of the first runner-up Awawu Haruna who got to the finish line at exactly 34mins 02. 24secs. The third place was won by Abiye David at the time of 34mins 16.39secs.
In the veteran category, Anna Seriki of Lagos State emerged the winner after crossing the finish line at 45 minutes 47.11 seconds with Plateau state athlete Ladi Henry coming in the second position. She ran in 46 minutes 16.90 seconds, while Kareem Bolanle finished third place at 46 minutes 40.74 seconds.
Lagos State Commissioner for Youth and Social Development, Mr. Segun Dawodu said the rationale behind the yearly sporting event is beyond the cash prize attached to the marathon.
The strict measures to contain Covid-19 spread while doing sports portray the new way of life sports lovers
The winner in the Elite Open, Dalyon, got a record cash prize of N1 million (about USD2605), while the first and second runners up received the sum of N500,000 (about USD1300) and 300,000 (about USD781) respectively. The veteran category winners got N300,000, N200,000 (about USD520) and N100,000 (about USD260) respectively.
According to the Commissioner who oversees sports as part of his portfolio in Lagos State, the marathon event seeks to promote the culture of healthy women, provide a platform for social interaction and fun and also discover athletes who can represent the State at the national and international levels.
While presenting the cheque to Dalyon, the winner of 2020 edition of the marathon, the Commissioner said the holding of the 10km marathon at this time proves that Lagos State like some other countries could now organize sporting activities amidst strict observance of all Covid-19 safety protocols.
He said: "We know that things are not fully back to normal yet, but we still need to keep fit and that's why we are encouraging our women with this marathon. It is very good for our wellness, wellbeing and state of mind considering the spate of unpleasant incidents that have occurred since the beginning of 2020 globally.”
He expressed the hope that if more time is dedicated to training of Nigerian athletes in endurance and high altitude, Nigerians would in no distant time compete favourably with athletes from Kenya, Ethiopia and other countries which have a natural endowment of high altitude.
The Chairman, Lagos State Sports Commission, Sola Aiyepeku who presented cash prizes to the veteran category winners, expressed satisfaction at the pace of improvement on the annual event, particularly the finish time of the winner, the first and second place runners-up respectively.
He recalled that the Lagos Women Run started about five years ago and the goal of the initiators was to create a culture of long-distance running. He added that the culture was gaining ground with the involvement of elderly women participating in the race.
In her post-race interview, Daylon said that preparing for the Lagos Women Run was not easy especially when there was a restriction on movement by the government.
“This victory came at a high price of daily hard work and intensive training. Though it is not easy, I thank God that I could see something to show my family of the time I spent on training before coming to Lagos for this marathon," Daylon said.